Puryear takes over as Ascension Christian head coach

Kyle Riviere @kyleR_sports
New Ascension Christian head football coach Josh Puryear. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

Regardless of Ascension Christian's record this upcoming football season, the year already looks to be a breath of fresh air.

After a tumultuous 2012 offseason that was filled with uncertainty and hectic, last-minute scrambling to get a football team on the field, the Lions finally have some stability to look forward to.

After an extensive coaching search that took in account more than 50 candidates, Ascension Christian decided Josh Puryear was the man for the job.

"I'm extremely excited. I think we have everything here at this school for the kids to succeed," Puryear said. "I'm really excited to take over this program and see where we can go in the future."

Puryear has been the Lions' defensive coordinator for the past four years, and he's now ready to step up into what will be the first head coaching job of his young career.

He thinks that the fact that he's worked with the players for so long and has such familiarity with the program is vital moving forward into his tenure.

"It's very important to me that I know a lot these kids," Puryear said. "I know who they are, and I'm from this area. I know the kids' skill-sets, so I think that's very important for us."

It'll be quite a challenge for Puryear. He is inheriting a program that has lost 21 straight games and because of the size of the school, always struggles filling their roster.

"It's been challenging, but it's also been a good opportunity for some of these kids to step up," Puryear said. "I've seen a lot of these kids step up and take leadership roles. Even though it's a small team, a lot of us rely on each other, and our kids do a really good job of doing that."

Last season got off to a horrid start for the Lions as their roster started off with only 15 players. Because of such a low number, the program looked well on their way to canceling the season.

However, at the last minute, they were able to draw nine more players to get the roster up to 24 kids. With the slight increase, they were able to keep the season alive, but head coach Brian Kinchen decided not to return.

Once again, the program was forced to do some last-minute scrambling as they tried to find a head coach. Teacher and administrator Bret Shelton stepped up and took over the head coaching duties.

Such flux clearly showed its effects on the team as they struggled through an 0-9 year.

But now with the hiring of Puryear, the program will get the consistency and stability that was missing from last year's team.

Though the challenges of low numbers and lack of team depth are always issues, Puryear thinks that the struggles they've had with that in the past can help them in the future.

"I think the challenges we've faced in the last four years will propel us and help us be successful as we head into this year," Puryear said. "In the past, we've played a lot of bigger schools with only 20 guys, but I think that has built character. We have some really hard-working, high-character guys on this team."

To help, the Lions have developed a new schedule for this year that will allow them to play multiple teams that are equal to them in size like Madison Prep, Ridgewood Prep and Ascension Episcopal. Their district will still be brutal with the likes of West St. John, Ascension Catholic and White Castle.

However, Puryear's coaching staff did get a big boost with the addition of new assistant coach Paul Burguard. Burguard is the Lions' head baseball coach, but he has extensive football experience and 41 total years of coaching under his belt.

Puryear is just excited to get the season started and to get the opportunity to turn things around.

"I have a lot of experience in the program, and I know these kids," Puryear said. "I know football, and I believe in the vision we have here at this school. I'm extremely excited; I just want to bring a lot of energy to the program and get the kids excited."